My name is Steve and I have an addiction, I love board games. Before you click that back button or click on another shiny looking link I want to assure you that you will love them too, you just don't know it yet. No doubt, in your mind you're currently thinking of the board game staples Cluedo, Scrabble and Monopoly.
Walk into any toy shop and these are what you will find and this is a bad, a very bad thing because there is a whole world of exciting, refreshing and new board games out there to suit every taste. There is the perfect game for you, you just don't know about it and that’s why I'm here. There's a revolution happening outside the shelves of the giant stores and you need to get involved.
Board games have one great thing going for them, they’re social activities and they bring people together. You’re not slouching on a couch in your pants being sworn at by kids in Call of Duty and you’re not in a darkened room with silly glasses watching giant robots pound the snot out of each other.
You’re sitting around a table with your friends and with your favourite beverage to hand, engaging face to face and hopefully having a few laughs in the process. This social interaction is what makes board games so great so here’s a few suggestions based on some old favourites to introduce you to the wonderful world of cardboard.
Bored of Monopoly? Try Settlers of Catan
I could write pages on what’s wrong with Monopoly so I'm going to say two things, you're playing it wrong and the game is over 80 years old! Monopoly has a reputation for taking too long to play and kicking people out of the game. There’s nothing fun about watching your friends play a board game for another hour because you stayed in a hotel in Pall Mall.
The real issue is most people don’t actually know how to play Monopoly or have made their own rules that break the game. The free parking rule, where you place all fines on the free parking space, makes the game take longer! A lot can happen in eighty years and now board games are shorter, don’t involve being eliminated from the game and have mostly ditched the role dice and move that many spaces theme.
The board game revolution started not too dissimilar to Monopoly, with a game about trading and building. The Settlers of Catan, has you playing settlers, coming to the island of Catan (it’s a bit on the nose isn’t it?) and harvesting and trading the island’s natural resources to build roads, villages and cities. It did several things that made it the breath of fresh air the world was looking for, it was short, it involved a lot of interaction between the players and no-one is ever eliminated from the game.
Central to the game is the trading of wood, stone, wheat and sheep, every player has access to these resources in various amounts but their needs are based on what they want to build. Players can then trade these resources and the snigger inducing term “I have wood for sheep” was born. This trading is where all the interaction and the key parts to the game come from. One player may hold a monopoly on stone, so everyone is then attempting to work out what resource they need and provide the tastiest deal.
Sick of Cluedo? Give The Resistance a try
One of the things I never understood about Cluedo (or Clue if you’re an American) was that you could be the killer but you don’t know it. The logic never really added up, so what if you could play a game where you know you are the bad guy but no-one else does? The Resistance is a simple card driven game about secret agents and hidden identities.
You all play resistance members fighting against a fascist government but some players are double agents whose aim is to scupper the Resistance’s plans. If the spies can keep their identity secret they’ll manage to thwart the good guys so it’s not long before accusations and threats start shouting across the room as everyone attempts to deduct who’s on which side.
More complex, but in a very similar vein, is the stunning Battlestar Galactica board game. Television tie in games are usually a bit lame but BSG beautifully captures the style but most importantly the feel of the recent series. Players have to work together to get to earth, whilst also fending off attacking cylons and averting various crisis.
Unfortunately some of the players are cylons; advanced robots pretending to be humans and their job is to thwart the humans at every step. BSG’s true beauty is that it works even without any knowledge of the licence but if you’re a fan of the show you’ll soon be accusing your best friend of being a “frakkin’ toaster” and trying to convince everyone else they need locking in the brig.
Tired of Risk? Have a go at SmallWorld
Perhaps you’ve got a Napoleon complex and want to quench your first for global domination over a glass of brandy. Risk is another one of those old favourites that now feels a little baggy, hell it takes half an hour just to set it up. The best game available for global conflict is the rather excellent Game of Thrones; a game that excellently captures the political manoeuvring of the source material. Although an awesome game, A Game of Thrones: the board game is rather complicated and more suitable for the advanced gamer.
Instead I suggest you look at Smallworld, a simple, yet immensely fun war game in which players take on constantly changing fantastical races. You could be dragon riding giants, seafaring Halflings or alchemist trolls but the problem is there isn’t enough room for everyone. It’s a game where you’re constantly beating at your neighbour’s borders and with the constant aggression comes the player interaction that makes board games so special.